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Audience reactions to Opera Fayetteville's 2013 Dead Man Walking

Since its premiere in 2000, Dead Man Walking, the first opera by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Terrence McNally, has become one of the opera world’s most performed new works. Commissioned by San Francisco Opera (then headed by Lotfi Mansouri), it is based on the prize-winning book by Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ  and tells the modern-day story of a nun who becomes the spiritual advisor to a condemned man on Louisiana’s death row. The opera was first performed on October 7, 2000 at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House. Maestro Patrick Summers led the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus and a cast that included mezzo-soprano Susan Graham as Sister Helen, baritone John Packard as Joseph DeRocher, and mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade as his mother, Mrs. DeRocher. The production was directed by Joe Mantello and featured sets by Michael Yeargan, lighting by Jennifer Tipton, and costumes by Sam Flemming. The original run of seven performances was increased to nine due to popular demand, and most performances were sold out.